The January jobs report was generally strong, thanks to higher earnings, slightly lower unemployment and a longer work week. The top-line job growth was 151,000 – below most expectations. November’s numbers were revised up, but December’s number were revised down by nearly the same amount.
Today the Department of Labor provides the first read of 2016 on the state of the U.S. labor market. Recall that in December, payroll employment rose by 292,000, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.0 percent. What can one expect in the January report?
Yesterday the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) sent a letter to 25 of the largest banks asking them to offer checking accounts free from overdraft charges along with prepaid card products. (You can read the letter here.) In it, the Director of CFPB, Richard Cordray, explains the need of the unbanked and underbanked population to have access to traditional banking services. He states his belief that individuals should be able to “choose a product that best fits their individual needs and circumstances” but mourns the fact that “unfortunately, consumers may not be able to choose an account that is right for them because of the limited availability.”
January 27 marked the 5th anniversary of the release of the FCIC’s report. In those five years, we have learned a lot. We’ve learned what the report (and/or its dissenting opinions) got right, what subsequent financial reform got wrong, and what everyone may have totally missed. What follows is a short discussion of the good, the bad, and the ugly of lawmakers’ responses to the crisis over the past five years.
At the time of the announcement of the Iranian nuclear deal, the administration claimed it would provide Iran access to about $50 billion in frozen assets. Weeks ago, Secretary of State john Kerry labelled as “fictional” the notion that Iran would gain access to $100 billion due to the Iran nuclear deal. Suddenly, the State Department has changed its tune; spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would be releasing about $100 billion to Iran. (The humorous footnote to this episode is the State Department’s attempt to convince reporters that because Iran would have to repay $45 billion in debts, it was really only “getting” $55 billion. Conveniently, this is closer to the original number but it is the same as asserting your paycheck is misleading because you have to pay student loans, mortgages, car loans or other expenses. It makes no sense.)
In December, Senator Jeff Sessions released two immigration reform bills aimed at reducing H-1B Visas for high-skilled workers and adding a number of additional regulations on employers seeking to hire H-1B immigrants. According to American Action Forum (AAF) research, policies in these bills (S. 2394 and S. 2365) could reduce U.S. employment by 340,000 jobs and add millions of dollars in regulatory burdens on employers.
Last week the Department of Labor (DOL) sent its final version of the long-awaited and much-debated fiduciary rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval. In the meantime, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved two bills that offer alternative fiduciary standards and would require DOL to receive congressional approval before implementing its fiduciary rule.
The Hill newspaper is reporting that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest "said [Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell and President Obama] will probably discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, earned income tax credit, and heroin addiction problem.” It is a healthy development for there to be good communication between these three leaders. And there may be room for some agreement on enhancing the Earned Income Tax Credit, (EITC) a shared commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and concern over the scourge of addiction. But that is a far thing from constituting a “to do” list for the Congress.
The nation has experienced a disappointing recovery from the most recent recession and confronts a projected future defined by weak economic growth. Left unaddressed, this trajectory will result in failing to bequeath to the next generation a more secure and more prosperous nation.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the most successful federal anti-poverty program. It uses the tax system — in the form of a refundable tax credit — to subsidize the wage earnings of those low-income Americans who choose to work. To date, however, the focus of the program has been on families with children, especially single mothers. However, with labor force participation at 30-year lows and poverty rising during the recovery from the Great Recession, it is quite timely for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to expand the EITC for childless adults.